El Salvador

Communities mobilised, but Central America unscathed by season's first hurricane

Three Central American countries escaped major damage and casualties from Hurricane Adrian last Thursday and Friday

  • to the considerable astonishment and relief of their jittery populations who had braced themselves for a far worse scenario.

Communities where World Vision works in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were mobilised ahead of the storm, providing a good test of the region's disaster preparedness.

Widespread fear of an impending catastrophe on the scale of Hurricane Mitch in 1998 - fueled to a great extent by speculatively dire media reports -- proved to be unfounded after the Pacific Ocean hurricane weakened to a tropical depression shortly after reaching El Salvador's southern coast. Adrian continued to lose force as it followed a north-easterly path across the tiny country and neighboring Honduras, before disappearing over the Caribbean on Saturday.

Adrian was the region's first major storm of this year's hurricane season, which is predicted to be more active than normal over the next six months. It prompted the declaration of red emergency alerts in El Salvador and Honduras, where local schools were closed along with international airports last Thursday and Friday morning.

World Vision Rapid Response teams were activated in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and emergency staff were dispatched to field locations along with food supplies, medicines, tents, blankets and other relief items.

Some 500,000 people were reportedly evacuated from their homes in El Salvador ahead of the hurricane. WV El Salvador, together with local response teams in each of its Area Development Programs (ADPs), initiated an Emergency Plan in coordination with municipal emergency committees, positioning relief goods for rapid distribution when and where needed. WV offices in Honduras and Guatemala followed the same general strategy - monitoring the storm, communicating with ADPs, and helping them to plan and implement initial response activities.

Although Adrian generated moderate to intense rains, landslides were minimal and, remarkably, no casualties or substantial damages were reported.

Nevertheless, the detailed plans and preparations undertaken by WV offices in all three countries provided them with valuable insights and lessons for dealing with future emergencies on a possibly much larger scale.

Communities respond quickly ahead of emergency

Communities in World Vision projects were quick to mobilise ahead of the expected onslaught of Tropical Storm Adrian, getting those at risk to safety and positioning relief goods ahead of any need.

One of the programs quick to respond was World Vision El Salvador's Renacer Area Development Program (ADP), where 44 families from at-risk areas were evacuated from their homes and housed in a shelter.

Warm food, blankets and mattresses were provided to the families. Two doctors from the ADP provided medical check-ups to those in need.

The activities were coordinated with the municipality police and local health posts.

The mayor of San Francisco Menéndez, Remigio Morales, said World Vision's actions were of great benefit to the community.

"We are lucky to have World Vision as a partner," he said. "When the emergency began, they committed to providing food for the people who were evacuated. Every family was given mattresses so they could sleep."

Reports from Kevin Cook - WV Latin America and Caribbean Communications Director, Katia Maldonado and Baltazar Ventura - WV EL Salvador Communications

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